kCura, developer of Relativity, has changed its corporate name to Relativity and its website name to www.relativity.com. There are several articles about the rebranding here, and CEO Andrew Sieja’s blog post explaining the change is here.
You don’t need me to summarise all that for you. Instead, I am going back nine years to look at what I said about kCura when I first came across it. Did my initial reaction stand the test of time? I am not talking about Relativity the software here – I had stopped being a user of any eDiscovery software by 2008 – but about the company and its commitment to discovery education, the place where its ambitions overlap with mine.
I can remember the first time I heard of kCura. I first met Andrew Sieja in July 2008, and said in the article I wrote afterwards (I will come back to that in a minute) “I first heard of kCura about four years ago”. Assuming I was right about that, that means I first came across kCura in about 2004, before it had occupied the niche in which it is now famous. Someone had suggested to me that kCura’s then mixture of collaboration and knowledge management tools might be adaptable to electronic discovery, and that at least one major law firm was showing interest. I found an email address and wrote to the company, perhaps (I can’t now recall) in case they were looking for a reseller in the UK market (in which I then had a software product of my own). Somewhat to my surprise, I got a reply by return. Nothing came of it, but the name stuck in my head, perhaps because they were polite enough to reply (good manners go a long way).
I said in my 2008 article that
the word then [in 2004] was that [kCura] had some exciting technology – “exciting”, you will appreciate, is a relative term even for those of us who like this sort of thing – but that it needed time or resources to break through. The name popped up every now and then, but its potential as a force in the market only became clear when DLA Piper bought it.
The reason I met Andrew Sieja in England in July 2008 was that he had come over to give technical support to DLA Piper as they rolled out Relativity, the name by then given to kCura’s main eDiscovery product. Note that, by the way: the company aims to have 800 employees by the end of 2017; in 2008 the CEO did technical support himself.
Andrew got off the train on his way down from Leeds, and we walked and talked on Port Meadow for a while, inspiring my article Meeting people is right.
We discussed our respective ambitions. His, obviously, was to become the world’s leading provider of eDiscovery software. Mine was to become the first commentator who could write and speak authoritatively about eDiscovery in any jurisdiction which included discovery in its litigation rules.
That “any jurisdiction” bit is important – the US had and has plenty of people writing authoritatively about eDiscovery, but their world-view ended at their national borders. At that stage, the US sneered disdainfully at any other jurisdiction which purported to manage electronic documents (or, indeed, any documents) in litigation. For our part, the US seemed to make monstrous mountains out of molehills by discovery rules, procedure and culture which seemed designed almost deliberately to exaggerate the burden and cost of discovery. US eDiscovery experts gave “the slightly patronising impression that the US [was] sending missionaries to a backward world” as they “shout[ed] their own terms of art at foreigners” (the quotations come from a couple of my old articles on the subject). My 2008 idea that one could bridge this, and do so around the common-law world, must have seemed as preposterous to Andrew Sieja as his 2008 ambitions seemed to me.
What I took away from that long walk was the sense that kCura had a genuine interest in helping lawyers to understand both their products and the context in which they were to be used. I said this:
What interests me about a provider is not whether their products or services are the best but whether their web sites, explanations and demonstrations help prospective users to understand what can be done for them. The aim is to make suppliers allies in the collective fight to help lawyers see what is possible. A poor demo or a lousy web site – and there are a few – does not just lose that company a sale, it can put people right off the whole subject.
kCura’s web site is a model of clarity, including an on-line demo of Relativity which helps illuminate the wider subject. I commend it to you, and if Andrew Sieja is as entertaining a demonstrator as he is a companion on a long walk, you will not find the demo a waste of time.
Roll on nine years. Relativity is indeed the most widely-used eDiscovery platform, with 160,000 users at 13,000 organisations around the world. On my side, kCura’s commitment to education has given me the best platform I could possibly want for the mission to explain which I outlined on that walk. I have moderated or participated in Relativity panels in London, Chicago and New York, on technology-assisted review around the world and on cross-border discovery – two themes which reflect my 2008 idea that we could all learn from each other. I am covering both subjects again at Relativity Fest in this coming October.
Given that history, I have no particular difficulty in using the words “kCura” and “Relativity” interchangeably as the context requires. I can well see, however, that it is less than ideal, particularly in new markets, and that having two brand names is potentially confusing.
Andrew Sieja’s article sets out more than the reasons for the change of name. He identifies three particular ambitions – to deliver a single technology platform that can power a project, connecting Relativity to “everything we can”, and creating a network for users. Reduced to simple terms, the slogan is “Organise data. Discover the truth. Act on it.”
Relativity has more concrete ambitions than its slogans imply – ambitions to do with head-counts, users, documents under review and ever-evolving technology. I wish Relativity well as it embarks on the next 10 years under its old-but-new name.
Here are pictures from the years in between, some reinforcing the point about Relativity’s commitment to education and understanding. That commitment, as I have said, was evident right from the start and was the main thing I took away from my first meeting with Andrew Sieja. Relativity is now playing on the world stage, and its commitment to spreading understanding has grown with it.